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My first day at Grand Hyatt Shanghai! I realized why I was hired!

Welcome hoteliers.

The last article was about my first night back in Shanghai, and how I went to club Modu, which was probably not the smartest idea. However Modu would become a hangout spot that became a theme in my time in Shanghai.


I was told by FYU (Guest Service Manager) that I would start work at 10am, so obviously I figured I would have some time to rest, however my room was called at 7am and asked if I was coming to morning briefing. Obviously confused I asked who I was speaking with and of course it was the Front Office Manager.

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They texted me on my US number which didn’t work because I was now in China. I also arrived at the hotel a little past 11pm which means I did not have a phone number yet; but I told them I’d be ready by 8 and ready I was.


When I got to the desk it was quite exciting, we had some international interns, two interns from Indonesia and one from Hong Kong but was originally from India! I got introduced to the team, surprised everyone with my Chinese, got all the materials I needed and just a brief department rundown and I was done for the day.

I figured I’d relax and get some sleep, I was obviously exhausted, but not even an hour later my room got called. The front office manager was a gentleman from Germany, but he had stepped away and there was an international guest who demanded to speak to an international manager.

The problem? The agent didn’t understand his English accent, when she said “let me get my manager,” he began attacking her English, poor girl. So I was called to rescue the damsel in distress. Guest wanted a room with a tub and extra coffee in room.

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So after putting out that fire, I decided to just stay at the front desk and observe; that first day showed me 90% of the issues the front desk suffered from, and I had realized why I was hired.

1.) I’m from the United States and I can speak Chinese. I can bridge the gaps at the front desk since the Front Office Manager didn’t speak Chinese. (In China usually at the Front office manager position and above, you don’t need to necessarily need to speak the local language because you don’t have too much guest engagement, you’re more administrative, but, I suggest learning)!

2.) I’m from NY, so I know how to handle crazy situations. I know how to tell the guest no if they’re being overly inconsiderate of our efforts to work together, but I don’t physically say no! (In Chinese culture, their version of polite is to agree then find a reason to decline after the other party leave, so as to not cause a loss of face; face being an article for later)!

3.) Grand Hyatt Shanghai had a large foreign clientele base and many contracts with multi-national companies; much more than I expected, even for Shanghai! The western traveler likes to small talk, laugh, meet new people, and have a warm check in experience. The Asian traveler wants to be checked in ASAP. Does not really want to engage strangers, does not want to be kept waiting and it’s a little awkward to make useless small talk. (Of course generalizations, and doesn’t entirely apply to all business guests either. But most western guests are more casual, most Asian guests we had, just want their room and does not like being asked questions).

4.) The staff was a bit robotic. Staring at the computers like robots and not engaging the guests. In NY we have a 5-10 rule; 5 feet engage guest (good morning, evening, etc.) 10 feel acknowledge guest (nod, give Guest a smile, look inviting, but don’t shout hello from the across the lobby). So they needed me to teach the staff how to give good customer service and to be more approachable; I could tell that the guests felt awkward passing the desk.

5.) Teach them English… The English level in hotels in China is decreasing. This is because there’s so much supply of positions, and not enough qualified personnel to choose from. The hotels hire anyone with decent English scores but conduct the interview in Chinese so they don’t actually know how the speaking capacity of many new hires. Also in Asia schooling is based on memorization not application. For example many agents could write English beautifully, but, could not pronounce what they wrote. Hence, when a western guest walked past, I actually saw a agent put their head down hoping the guest wouldn’t see them…?

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On my first day I noticed easily what the department struggled with. I realized what they needed from me and I felt that I could easily provide.

Win-win situation since I had the skills to provide, minus the English teaching. I don’t have anything against it, but I don’t have the patience to be a teacher and have never done it. I’ve spent years convincing people in China just because a western person speaks English doesn’t qualify them to teach it and that was definitely my case. But I was certainly going to try my best.

My advice is that although I ended up in a pretty good situation, however, if you’re going to China, find out your job description first! What they need from you, and what they expect from you before you arrive. Again, contracts and negotiated terms are stretched and there are many gray areas; It’s not unheard of for expatriate workers to be given extra responsibilities outside of their normal duties while in China, and you will be persuaded quite convincingly to agreeing to help; then it becomes your responsibilities forever! Just make sure you’re aware what you’re getting into, I was not fully aware, but again, it worked out for me.


All in all I quite enjoyed my first day, it was spontaneous, interesting, I love to fix things, and I was back in China baby!

Thanks for stopping by, and see you in the next article.

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Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

 

International Hotel Salary Packages Part II~~~!!

Welcome hoteliers!

Thank you for stopping by for another article!

you rock

The last article was a bit long, kudos if you read the whole thing, if you’re thinking of working in a hotel in China, I sure hope you read the whole thing, it has a lot of insight I think and overall, if I knew then what I know now, I would have fought to get a better deal, at least on the plane ticket. 😉

So in this article, I’m going to jump straight into the different salaries that front office staff would receive and of course there’s a disclaimer.

These salaries are the “average” for Shanghai only and for international luxury hotels. If you want to scale it, without major research, it’s about the same as Beijing, and if you are looking at other cities subtract around 1-1,500RMB off the top for level 4-7; again, these are just premature estimations not random salary pulls a lot can vary. Also I did get permission from former staff & friends regarding sharing this information so what’s below are their numbers which do not reflect everyone’s earning potential; it only serves as a potential threshold. Also note that the F&B Benefit refers to eating inside the hotel, ordering from room service etc., relocation refers to just getting your plane ticket purchased on your behalf, transportation etc.

(RMB – USD figures always change daily, so check the numbers daily if need be, as of the posting of this article, this is where the exchange rate has my numbers listed as!)

lets get started

Lets go!

Position Salary (Local) Salary (Expat) F&B Benefit   Housing Relocation
General Manager 42,500rmb($6443) 85,000rmb ($12887) 30,000rmb($4548) 15,000rmb($2274) O
Director of Rooms 29,000rmb($4396) 37,500rmb ($5685) 25,000rmb($3970) 11,000rmb($1667) O
Front Office Manager 15,000rmb($2274) 25,000rmb ($3790) 10,000rmb($1516) 8,000rmb ($1212) O
Assistant Front Office Manager 11,000rmb($1667) 18,000rmb ($2729) 8,500rmb ($1288) 7,000rmb ($1061) O
Duty Manager (me at the time) 8,000rmb ($1212)

(me)

14,000rmb ($2122) 4,000rmb ($606 (me) 4,000rmb ($606 (me) X
Team Leader/Supervisor 6,000rmb ($909) X X Staff housing X
Front Desk Agent/Guest Service 4,000rmb ($606) X X Staff housing X
Intern/Mgmt. Trainee 2,500rmb ($379) (interns) 5,000rmb ($758)

(Mgmt. trainee)

3,000rmb ($484)

(both)

Hotel or staff housing X

I hope this list is interesting, let me say it again, the salaries are based off my friends and former staff including GM acquaintances that were comfortable sharing their package details to help me make this list and comfortable with me listing it here; as you can see it also includes my own package details at the time. J

Final notes to list the difference in my package between my local Duty Manager colleagues & some general information:

  • The salary that other Duty Managers inside my hotel were receiving was around 1,000rmb ($151 approx.) less than mine, did not receive any meal or housing benefits either.
  • Aside from what was listed, I pushed and got laundry allowance as well but few people cared about it, I just wanted to make sure I could get whatever benefits they were willing to give me.
  • The information listed for expat Duty Manager Salary, was from one of my friends it’s very rare to receive an expat package for that position.
  • Guest Service/Relations Managers are at the same level as a Duty manager.
  • Speaking some level of Chinese helps your bargaining power for grabbing a better package.
  • *Can of worms* the reason even if most expats are given a local package, it’s still higher than a true local is because of lifestyle. For a Chinese landlord to rent to an expat, they have to pay a tax so you won’t find housing as cheap as most locals, for example my 1-bed apartment was 4,500rmb/$682 a month, decent location and the best value. My friend who was Chinese had multiple options for 1-bedroom places in similarly good locations for 2,800rmb/$424 a month! A lot of places will say they are unable to rent to expats meaning they didn’t register for it, don’t have the tax system in place, and don’t have the “fapiao (official receipt, later articles just on this)” capabilities either.

My advice, again, reflect on what kind of lifestyle you want and see if the package details if offered a position is acceptable to you. Whilst making this list I had asked a substantial amount of friends to get a salary basis, so that anyone down the line can compare their offer to some average numbers above and see how their package standards. Happy hunting, good luck, and always feel free to ask any questions

Thank you so much for stopping by and see you next time!

Bet Regards,

Daniel Cooper

International Hotel Salary Packages!!

Welcome hoteliers!

Thank you for stopping by for another article.

There was an article I read a few months ago about how us millennials are much more open and comfortable discussing our salary with others as a measure of our success and I have to say I never noticed how comfortable I was discussing it myself; it’s true. I can’t speak for others, but money is not only very important in how I made decision (gotta live right) but I was also curious about how my salary would increase over time; also what were others making? Was I being paid fairly? Unlike government workers our salaries aren’t posted online, so you never really know; only HR knows 😉

(HR is all-knowing!)

HR


So I don’t mind telling people so they can gauge what they could expect/willing to accept by working in China; both compared to local salaries, compared to their salaries back home as well as how that salary stacks up to the standard of living from a local standpoint and an international standard.

My one and only disclaimer is that I’m not HR, so I don’t know everyone’s numbers it’s only based off my personal knowledge and information I gathered from friends and connections. I’m a curious person; again, there’s no database or information to base it on.

I also can’t really comment much on other departments outside of the front office, also there are differences between working for a franchised property and an equity property, lastly the country you come from IS a factor in how much you will get paid; anyone who says otherwise hasn’t asked as many questions; disclaimer over..

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Before I go into specifics on numbers, I need to tell you the difference between the local and international package, it’s self-explanatory but important. A local package is, well, local, but more than that, for expatriates (expats) you’re more likely to get hired if you accept this package (less paperwork, cheaper for hotel, less hassle and expenses to report.) If you are lucky enough, or have a high enough position to get an international package, thank your lucky stars, it’s a totally sweet deal. So what’s included? (These are from a typical expat standpoint and based off what I had or knowledge I acquired.)

              Local  
Salary mirrors avg. local
Housing Allowance partial cover of rental costs
Insurance partial cover of insurance costs
Vacation 10 days with 1 day earned per annum
Sick Leave 6 days
Bonus depending on hotel
              International  
Salary mirrors international salaries
Housing Allowance covers the cost of most rental apartments in the city
Insurance full cover of most insurance costs
Vacation 10 days with 1 day earned per annum
Sick Leave 6 days
Bonus depending on hotel
Plane Ticket offered after 1 year of service
Relocation covers cost from home country to hotel

Now allow me to explain my charge, I know it’s a little weird, and maybe others have a completely different chart. But here’s the lowdown:

 Salary: As an expat, you’ll get a little more money, but it’s just enough that you can live comfortable living like a local, which means you’re not going to be eating and drinking fancy every night; with an international package, although you’d blow money fast, you make about twice as much per month.

 Housing: On the local package, you’re lucky to get a housing allowance and if offered it’s just enough to subset some of the renting costs. At the time it was enough, for me, I wanted to live decently in a place not on the other side of the city and no roommates; I was in it for the experience. I got lucky and found all of that with what I was offered, but most times it’s good enough to cover half the rent; In an international package you’re offered a nice housing allowance which depending on what you’re looking for, should cover all the rental costs, or if the hotel has house use rooms which is quite common, you can opt to surrender the allowance and live in the hotel (which isn’t bad.)
 – I do want to note that the hotel will give even local package earners a comp. room for usually 2-3 weeks so they can find an apartment.

 Insurance: Touchy point, in all honestly I’m a careful person I’ve never broken anything, that being said as a foreign worker you must receive some form of insurance from the employer, if it’s not offered they’re illegally hiring you, or screwing you, but the local package will partially cover some of the costs depending on the nature of your injury or sickness. The international package will cover more obviously, however in China, even hospital visits are usually paid in cash, and this is a reimbursement, unless its extreme conditions, you’re expected to pay for your visit, submit the paperwork to HR and get a reimbursement.

 Vacation: To my knowledge vacation time was the same with 10 days offered and an incremental 1 day added per annum with a maximum of 14 days for both. It was the same for me and a friend of mine who had an international package for another hotel.

 Sick Leave: Was the same for both of us received 6 days per year.

 Bonus: In China, hotels give yearly bonuses based on the hotel performance which is totally sweet! For instance, the Grand Hyatt Shanghai’s was around an additional 2x which means that if my salary is 8,000rmb ($1,213 USD approx.) that month I’m taking in my normal 8,000rmb and an additional 16,000rmb ($2,426 USD approx.)

 Plane Ticket & Relocation: Here’s where there’s a difference, international package earner are (sometimes) going to get a relocation pay in which the hotel pays for your plane ticket, and your expense getting to the hotel if they didn’t have a hotel car to pick you up from the airport. For your yearly vacation, the hotel is going to pay for your plane ticket to a destination of your choice; this depends on the hotel, two of my friends got a ticket to wherever they wanted for their vacation, another friend of mine was from Australia so could only get a ticket there from the hotel, anywhere else and he had to pay himself, but the point is you get a ticket somewhere.

These are just some of the basics and how the packages vary. If you’re wondering who gets what, think of it like this. Level 1-7, 1 being General Manager, 7 being an intern. Levels 1-3 are getting an international package 95% of the time, levels 4 and below are going to get a local package 99% of the time because ideally they could hire a local over you at that level.

One more thing to note, the most common positions that could be filled by expats overseas are within the leadership committee such as the General Manager but mostly limited to positions within the front office and food & beverage; positions in sales/marketing, security etc. are still going to be locals 99.9% of the time.

Employment levels vary in hotels but very generally you can break it down as below, and I’m going to reflect the levels based on the front office to the GM. The reason they vary as you’ll see there’s an additional position which is not too common in hotels in the west.

Position Level
General Manager 1
Director of Rooms 2
Front Office Manager/ Assistant Front Office Manager 3
Duty Manager 4
Team Leader or Supervisor/ Management Trainee 5
Front Desk Agents 6
Interns 7

Again, these levels vary, but the most notable is the Duty Manager position, in America we have Front Desk Agent -> Supervisor (sometimes) -> Assistant Front Office Manager (sometimes) -> Front Office manager. This Duty Manager is sort of a manager, but not really. It’s mainly a supervisor with a little extra power over operations and handling the day to day flow, whereas the AFOM (Assistant Front Office Manager) is handling departmental matters such as scheduling, budgeting, policies, ordering etc. an AFOM is considered a department head in Asia but in many places it isn’t quite that high up

My advice, and the reason I don’t have standard of living costs in this article, but will have in a future article for sure, is that I had already lived in China, so I knew how to live cheaply, and where I can splurge; plan out what kind of lifestyle you want to have and if you would be able to get by with a standard local package, or, if your position is high enough to obtain an international package, take it! its rare! But I do wan’t to express asking a lot of questions before accepting the job and researching a lot to make sure you’re getting a good deal, at least whatever is acceptable to you.

I know this was a bit of a long article, I’m sorry; I want to make sure I get as much information to you guys as possible. In the next article, I will talk about what the actual salaries are like and some basics on the housing. Thanks for stopping by and see you in the next article!

Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

How did I work in a Chinese hotel??

Welcome hoteliers!

When I graduated college I worked for half a year in a temporary front office position at the Staybridge Inn & Suites in Times Square, NYC. Sounds nice right? Well, it wasn’t all that bad, except I wanted a life-style change. Now I know what you’re thinking… what recent graduate is talking about life-style change when we’re just beginning well, I had been to China a few times to study abroad and I just felt I wanted a more international life-style and New York isn’t where I’m meant to be at that time.

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So I wanted to work as a front desk agent in China, which you’ll find out why that was lunacy and near impossible, and I had very little luck finding anything; actually let’s tell the truth, I applied to over 300+ internationally branded hotels in many cities for a front desk agent and never got a reply.

Now I’m a firm believer in this belief that I have; actually I’m going to make it a “Cooper quote, from here on out, officially a thing in this blog. #cooperquote

“The internet doesn’t hire people, people hire people” – Daniel Cooper #cooperquote

What I mean is that from then on, I stopped applying online for hotel jobs; I needed to find the person who would hire me, or, could influence my application and reach out to them directly. In most hotels the General Manager is the highest position which led me to my next revelation… (Don’t get upset with me HR people)

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“If I apply online I’m at the bottom of the barrel, if I can send a nice email to the GM or my department manager and have them forward it, I’ll be at the top of the barrel and likely to get a response” – Daniel Cooper #cooperknowledge

***I promise not to sugarcoat anything in this blog just, FYI***

When I got my first interview using my new method, new to me anyway, because again, the internet never contained this information, maybe because it’s a crazy method, but I had no idea how to do it, so I made my own way; anyway I was contacted by the HR at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Shanghai for a position of a Duty Manager and the interviews were conducted on Skype.

 

 

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When you’re having 4-5 hotel interviews a day on Skype, this is exactly how you look!

The Process

Most of the time, the hotel will either call you (they can call internationally obviously) but more commonly will Skype you for two reasons. One, you’re not in China, and two, they want to see what you look like; looks are a thing in Asia and influence your hiring prospects, anyone who says otherwise is sugarcoating in fact, you need to include your picture in your CV which is basically your resume.

Elegant Resume Template Vector Free Download throughout 79 Enchanting Resume Templates Free Download
It’ll look a little something like this.

The first interview is with the HR manager or director, hiring an expatriate is a big deal abroad, so the big wigs have to interview you of course, second interview was with the director of the department, and final interview is with the General Manager or Hotel Manager.

After you pass the interviews and get an offer, congrats, you have to produce a ton of documents such as your college degree, former employment letters providing proof you worked where you said you did since they’re not going to call your past properties, a copy of your passport, criminal background check (don’t be a crook) and in 1-2 months your letters will be in the mail to go get yourself a work visa and head to China!

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That’s the how anyway, now, why did it work out for me?

To be honest with you guys and everyone has a different experience, also, I’m African American, which will be a whole other story, but it does give you additional obstacles but other opportunities as well, I got the job because I had something they needed and they had something I wanted.

In simpler terms, they were using me and I was using them.

win win

I did take a pay cut, which you shouldn’t have to, maybe the gross salary isn’t as high, but there are many perks, which I’ll discuss in another article. I was paid around $1,200 a month, base salary in Shanghai which can be just as expensive as NYC and had $800 as housing allowance which means I pay first and they reimburse me. To scale it even more, the position that I had, equivalent in NYC would be making around $2500 a month after tax, but the standard of living was similar, until you learn to live like a local.

noodles
Noodles are life!

They hired me because I spoke Chinese, accepted a lower salary, was a native English speaker, and was from NYC so I knew how to handle crazy oversold situations; also I could wear 3 hats at once, and teach free English to the staff, so for them total win.

For me, although I knew I was getting low-balled and I had other offers, the decision was like this:

Hotel Indigo Shanghai: Management Trainee position

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Hotel Indigo, red circle is Grand Hyatt, blue circle, Park Hyatt!

Intercontinental Shanghai hotel: Management Trainee

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Le Méridien Hotel Qingdao: (different city, beautiful city!) Management Trainee

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Holiday Inn Weihai (also a different city): Management Trainee

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Grand Hyatt Shanghai: Duty Manager!

Hyatt
Grand Hyatt Shanghai was from the 53rd floor to 87th floor of the Jin Mao tower

So I could be an intern, or jump into management “oh boy my first management position!”

oh boy


I accepted the Grand Hyatt offer; also I knew that I wasn’t in the greatest position to haggle or get into management in NYC, so I knew if I took this position, I could move up and gain more China experience which will further my career there and at home.

So I got my papers in the mail, booked the cheapest economy ticket, a one-way ticket 🙂 and I was in China to start my new job and new life!


My advice is when it comes to China, just as back home; persistence in job hunting is a must. However you also need thick skin, there is some prejudice about how you look, which country or city you’re from, which school you attended etc. If possible, learn some Chinese, it will boost your prospects greatly, and finally, unless you receive an “expatriate” salary package, which I will discuss later, brace yourself to live a more frugal life with a pay cut. It was okay for me because of the title, position offered, and the experience I would gain, make sure you’re okay with it before you accept!

Thanks for stopping by and see you next time!

Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

 

 

What is wuxingjiexperience??

Welcome hoteliers!

My name is Daniel and let me guess your first question. What is the “wuxingji” in wuxingjiexperience?

Wuxingji (五星级) means 5 stars, so, 5 star experience… catchy huh?

And yeah as you can guess, I speak Chinese, and yeah I’m African American.

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Macau, China

Now that we got that out of the way, what is this blog all about? Well… and bear with me here, I work in hotels + I love the industry and a lot of people ask me what it was like working in hotels in China. Also, there’s the “what’s it like being black in China?” What’s it like being black working in hotels? What’s it like being a black foreigner working in hotels in China and so much more. So I want to share some awesome, crazy, adventurous, insider, borderline whistle-blowing stories of my experiences over there.

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Whistle-blowing yo!

It’s also my hope that this blog can also give some insight to people wanting to get some information about how to work in hotels in Asia since there’s a lack of information online. Lets get started!

I’m going to make this fast and brief~

I started working in hotels when I was finishing high school and on my way to college. I applied to every job listed online since I was 17 and had such a hard time getting in.

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I’m from New York by the way, however the competition is vicious, but I was eventually able to get a job at the front desk at a Holiday Inn in New Jersey. Afterwards I worked at a Days Inn & Suites hotel in Delaware while going to college full time and studied in China each fall semester; I built the Chinese program at my university but that’s an article for another time. After college I worked for a Staybridge Inn & Suites in Times Square NYC (finally got into NYC hotels despite being from there sheesh!) But it didn’t last long;

I secured myself a position as a Duty Manager in Shanghai, China at the Grand Hyatt hotel. From there I went to work for a pre-opening Fairmont hotel in Chengdu, China (panda city) had a brief stint in South Korea, and now I’m back in NY again. Brief right? I tried to make it quick. 🙂

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Grand Hyatt Shanghai!

I’ve been fortunate to get many interesting opportunities within the hotel industry and in China; the best thing is, my journey is just beginning, but I wanted to share just the incredible experiences I’ve had working, partying & dating overseas and why I’m intending on going back. So grab a beer, make a sandwich and make sure to binge read because I’m sure my stories with entertain and thank you for stopping by!

P.S. my articles will always end with “best regards” and a little advice from me to you~ #hotelier4life.

Best Regards,
Daniel Cooper

Continue reading What is wuxingjiexperience??